Many times when a longtime gamer is asked what his or her favorite Super Nintendo game is, the answer is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In fact, many consider it to be the best Zelda game ever created.
Way back in the January 1992 issue of Famicon Tsuushin, Mr. Miyamoto was interviewed about the game, fresh after the experience of completing it. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who has fond memories of the game, but I found the following questions and answers to be really interesting because they seem to finally be realizing the Zelda ethos with Breath of the Wild:
The Zelda games do a good job of challenging our gaming preconceptions. In most games, for example, you can only dispatch enemies with your sword or weapon, but Zelda has enemies where the sword is completely ineffective…
Miyamoto: For some people, Zelda is an adventure game in the guise of an RPG. For others, it’s an adventure game in the guise of an action game. The latter might not be able to get away from the preconception that they have to use the strongest weapon to fight the boss.
—Though you are, in fact, able to damage most bosses without the sword.
Miyamoto: That’s right. You can damage the Helmasaur King, for example, with bombs or the hammer. Originally, we had it so that the hammer didn’t do anything, but because we went to the trouble of putting a hammer in the temple, we went back and reprogrammed it so it could be put to use as well.
—There’s a right way, but not one right way. By the way, for first-time players, I noticed that the time it takes you to beat the game the first time is totally different from when you replay it…
Miyamoto: On average, it should take about 40 hours to clear the first time through. At Nintendo, I believe the record was around 5 hours?
—40 hours, wow… yeah, if you get stuck on some of these puzzles, it can eat up a lot of time. That might be a bit intimidating for players used to more conventional, linear RPGs.
Miyamoto: We did include alternate paths/solutions for players that are easier, though. Originally, the system in Zelda we envisioned was more open-ended: for example, if there was a rock blocking your way, you could safely ignore it and keep playing: there was always another way around. I wanted something that players could get so lost in, it would take them a whole year to finish.
—Wow, a whole year—but the payoff for that struggle would be enormous, no doubt.
Miyamoto: The problem with making an “open-ended” version of Zelda like that was the messaging and plotline. If you ignore structure like that, then the plotline can quickly get screwy and NPC messages start to not make sense. Programming in enough logic to handle all the different possibilities probably would have required about 150% more memory than we had.
—I would love to play an “unstructured” version of Zelda someday, though. “The Legend of Zelda: Hard Type” (laughs). Were any ideas carried over from that early concept?
While the later 3D Zelda games allowed for relatively larger, less structured experiences, the new Breath of the Wild is a fulfillment of the “open-world Zelda” promise made 25 years ago.
Miyamoto: Yeah, being able to destroy walls with bombs.
—Right, where the walls show little cracks…
Miyamoto: Actually, even if they don’t have cracks, there’s still a way to figure out the wall is breakable. When you hit the walls with your sword, they normally make a “ting ting” sound, but walls that can be broken make a hollow sound. From the perspective of the player, when they go around hitting all the walls and find one that makes a different sound, I think it’s more satisfying that way.
For the rest of the interview, be sure to check out the always amazing Shmuplations site. They do an amazing job translating these interviews that would otherwise never see the light of day.